By Sarah Zylstra Correspondent November 21, 2012 10:04AM
Updated: November 21, 2012 1:04PM
Rich Township High School District 227 needs to come up with a plan to boost declining enrollment numbers, board member Cheryl Coleman says.
A demographic study done in 2009 predicts a steady decline in the number of students in the district over the next 10 years, Coleman said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“I saw a steady decline in his numbers, but then our actual numbers are running just slightly under the projection,” Coleman said.
That study is just part of what the district uses to track enrollment, Supt. Donna Leak said.
“What we utilize is the actual numbers of bodies that enroll,” she said. The enrollment numbers have been declining from just over 4,200 in 2008, and are now hovering around 4,000 students, she said.
However, those numbers are projected to drop steadily until evening out at just under 3,600 students in the early 2020s, according to the report. Some of the projected decline can be pinned to the lack of housing development because of the economic crisis, according to the report.
“The reason I want to talk about enrollment now is that we could use a stimulant right now to kick ourselves back to an upward trend,” Coleman said.
Enrollment numbers pay the bills, she said. “We have to understand if we continue to trend along with the demographer, at some point in time we can’t afford to keep four buildings open.”
Enrollment money pays for the district office building as well as the three high schools, she said.
Giving each high school a special emphasis—liberal arts or honors academics or technology--- would be one way to attract students, she said. The district could also consider recruiting honors students from Chicago, she said.
Soliciting students from other districts is impossible, Board President Betty Owens said.
“We can’t entice students from another area to come and pay tuition in our area,” she said. “We don’t accept kids from Chicago.”
The downward trend can be blamed on the housing crisis, Board Member Sonya Norwood said.
“I support the idea of all kinds of new programs to attract students, but the real bottom line is going to be keeping those families in jobs that keep them in their homes,” she said. “I don’t see a mass exodus because we have a bad system. I see a mass exodus of people losing homes.”
The times require imagination, courage and perseverance, Board Member David Morgan said. “As a rough estimate, we should monitor it as we go along,” he said.
Owens asked Leak to keep the board informed of any changes in trends.